Women report feeling more pain than men, according to a new U.S. study.
Using electronic medical records, researchers from Stanford University school of medicine examined approximately 160,000 ratings of pain from more than 72,000 patients and found that women reported more intense pain than men in virtually every disease category.
The results, published in the Journal of Pain, showed the distinct gender difference in perceptions of pain.
This applied across the board to a variety of different diseases and injuries, including back and neck pain, digestive disorders, sinus infections and even ankle strains and sprains.
The study asked participants to rate their pain on an 11-point scale, with 0 being no pain at all and 10 being the worst pain imaginable. On average, women reported experiencing pain one point higher than men, which could be indicative of a drug's effectiveness.
Dr Atul Butte, chief of systems medicine in the department of pediatrics at the university and lead author of the study, said we may have to adjust our thinking about how men and women report their pain. "The killer question is: Do women actually feel more pain than men?"
Dr Butte said women in the study reporting more pain overall does not necessarily mean that they have more or less tolerance to pain than men.
The study also did not account for the difference, which the researchers said could be attributed to social, psychological or biological factors.
Men may be more reluctant to confess intense pain to a female nurse, for example. Women are also more likely than men to suffer from depression and anxiety, two psychological conditions that can increase their susceptibility to pain.
Dr Butte said the results were both "statistically significant" and "clinically significant", though further research is required to fully account for the gender gap.